Saturday | November 18, 2017
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Ford seeks $30M Kona area shelter, center

Last council term, Councilwoman Brenda Ford questioned Hilo’s need for a third multipurpose events center, when West Hawaii didn’t have even one such gathering place.

Then Hilo Councilman Donald Ikeda, who introduced that measure, told Ford if West Hawaii needed a facility, she should introduce a bill requesting one.

So she did. Bill 30 amends the county’s capital improvements project list to add an emergency shelter and multipurpose events center in West Hawaii. The bill text says the project would be $3 million, but Ford said she intended to request $30 million — and she’ll be filing an amendment to fix the project amount.

Ford, who represents South Kona and Ka’u, doesn’t have a specific location in mind for the center, which would also be able to serve as an emergency shelter in the case of hurricanes or other natural disasters.

“My guess is, somewhere in District 8 (North Kona), which is our growth area,” Ford said, adding the county is likelier to find land in North Kona, as well.

She’s looking for “something the county can lease out for concerts” and other events, which could hold up to 10,000 participants for special events, or 1,000 people in an emergency. Right now, West Hawaii has only a few high school gyms for big events.

The measure does not allocate any money for the facility. It just gets the building on the list, so when money becomes available, the county can move on it. Ford said she would like to see if the county could qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for part of the cost, because the building would be used as a shelter.

The Finance Committee, which will hear the bill, is scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Hawaii County Building in Hilo.